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The place of millet in food globalization during Late Prehistory as evidenced by new bioarchaeological data from the Caucasus

Abstract : Two millets, Panicum miliaceum and Setaria italica, were domesticated in northern China, around 6000 BC. Although its oldest evidence is in Asia, possible independent domestication of these species in the Caucasus has often been proposed. To verify this hypothesis, a multiproxy research program (Orimil) was designed to detect the first evidence of millet in this region. It included a critical review of the occurrence of archaeological millet in the Caucasus, up to Antiquity; isotopic analyses of human and animal bones and charred grains; and radiocarbon dating of millet grains from archaeological contexts dated from the Early Bronze Age (3500-2500 BC) to the 1 st Century BC. The results show that these two cereals were cultivated during the Middle Bronze Age (MBA), around 2000-1800 BC, especially Setaria italica which is the most ancient millet found in Georgia. Isotopic analyses also show a significant enrichment in 13 C in human and animal tissues, indicating an increasing C 4 plants consumption at the same period. More broadly, our results assert that millet was not present in the Caucasus in the Neolithic period. Its arrival in the region, based on existing data in Eurasia, was from the south, without excluding a possible local domestication of Setaria italica. Today, there are many genetic, archaeobotanical or biochemical resources to track the domestication processes and diffusion of plants and animals. Among them, the millets, Panicum miliaceum and Setaria italica, are two species that have their origins in China, but their path to Europe has been the subject of numerous studies for several years. Across Asia, researchers have looked at millets to describe the dispersal of peoples and languages 1 , to address the concept of food globalization 2 , to understand how these cereals have adapted to different environments 3,4 and to investigate the sedentary, semi-nomadic, or nomadic lifestyles of the early agropastoral communities 5,6. This article focuses on the Caucasus, a region that has hitherto not yet been explored
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Contributor : Aurélie Salavert <>
Submitted on : Monday, June 28, 2021 - 9:11:25 AM
Last modification on : Friday, July 23, 2021 - 3:46:07 AM

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Lucie Martin, Erwan Messager, Giorgi Bedianashvili, Nana Rusishvili, Elena Lebedeva, et al.. The place of millet in food globalization during Late Prehistory as evidenced by new bioarchaeological data from the Caucasus. Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group, 2021, 11 (13124), ⟨10.1038/s41598-021-92392-9⟩. ⟨mnhn-03271999⟩

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